endlessly creating

teaching, books, projects, & other things i love

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Reading Passport

During a four-hour drive yesterday, I suddenly had the idea to introduce reader’s workshop this year by talking about all the awesome places I traveled – through books! Then I thought it would be fun to post a map in the classroom, with a “books help you travel” type quote, and then keep track of all the places my students and I “visit” throughout the year. I think I would have dots/stickers of some kind (color-coded by genre?) and have students label them with title and reader’s name. I’ll post more about the map once I finalize my plan for it!

What I’m posting about today is my second theme idea: creating “passports” for individuals to track their reading. Now that I have these things in place, I want to develop a whole travel-themed approach to reader’s workshop for the year! I don’t feel like I did an effective job of helping students get immersed in literature last year, and I’m hoping this approach will help emphasize that particular benefit of reading.

I used a type of foldable one of my teachers taught me years ago and created a template for a passport that allows for 4 mini-reviews and a list of 10 additional books:

1. Cover

See below for more, including a downloadable template and a video tutorial!

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ABC Award


Thank you to Simply Blissful Life for the nomination!  Here are the rules for the ABC Award:

  • Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and a link back. (She has a bunch of yummy-looking vegan recipes! Check em out!)
  • Come up with a word for each letter of the alphabet and write something relevant to you.
  • Nominate up to 15 bloggers for the Awesome Blog Content Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
  • Copy and paste the award somewhere on your blog.

I’m a sucker for chain letter type stuff, so here we go:

A: Animals. My favorites are owls, bears, and elephants!
B: Blonde.
C: Cookies.
D: Dystopian fiction. 
E: Eating. I enjoy it, but I’m picky.
F: Feminist. 
G: Gross. I get grossed out really easily by any number of things, mostly involving injuries/bodies.
H: Hats. I went through this phase in late high school/early college where I wore hats all the time.
I: Icicle. Not really about me, but I remember one time in junior high reading an interview with JK Rowling and she told someone named Icicle that she was going to use that name for a character in the Harry Potter series, then years later someone asked why she never did and she denied ever saying that. She totally said it, guys.
J: Jeans. I wore them for the first time in 6th or 7th grade. Before then I only wore those stupid leggings with the stirrups.
K: Kickboxing.
L: Lists. 
M: Milk. I drink more of it than anyone else I know.
N: NaNoWriMo.
O: Orange juice. I don’t like it.
P: Pacific Northwest.
Q: Quidditch. I’m a big Harry Potter nerd, among many other nerd types :)
R: Reading.
S: Spanish.
T: Theater. I love seeing live performances, but I was terrible when I tried acting in them.
U: Umbrellas. I hate when people say “real” Seattleites don’t use umbrellas, because I think they’re cute!
V: Vintage. I love old photos, styles, and movies.
W: Weird.
X: aXolotl. They’re cute and creepy!
Y: Yogurt. I only just started eating it during the past year.
Z: Zoo. I love the good ones, but find the crappy ones really really depressing.

Okay, I haven’t been spending much time on WordPress lately and don’t have any new blogs to nominate, so I’m doing this the lazy way. If you read my blog and want to do an ABC Award post, go ahead and do one linking back to me as the person who nominated you. And I’ll update this post linking to you as a nominee :)


Quick Project – Map Coasters

A few weeks ago I came across this awesome site that generates watercolor maps of any location you search. Then Pinterest gave me this idea for DIY coasters and I decided to combine the two to make a set for my dad for Father’s Day, featuring locations that are meaningful to us (home, campgrounds, etc).


The coasters were just over $1 each in the garden department at Home Depot and I copied and pasted the maps into a Word document to resize, crop, and print.

I used pushpins to prop the coasters up - way easier to mod podge the edges and keep them from sticking to anything!

I used pushpins to prop the coasters up – way easier to mod podge the edges and keep them from sticking to anything!

As I so often do with projects, I might have slightly overdone it… on some of them, it wasn’t clear what you’re looking at (the neighborhood is just a bunch of lines!) so I marked the specific location, such as our house, with a little heart. But then for consistency’s sake I wanted that on all of them, and then when it was too late I was like hm, that’s a bit much. Oh well.

The only problem I had other than that is that they seem to have stayed kinda sticky. I let the mod podge dry for DAYS, but it still felt tacky. I tried a spray-on acrylic sealant and let THAT dry for a couple days too and they looked okay, but they ended up getting a little messed up and they stick together a bit when they’re stacked. I don’t know, I always have issues with mod podge…

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Steampunk Silliness

I’ve never really had the opportunity or inclination for cosplay. I don’t think I’m geeky enough to go to a convention, and if I did I think I’d be too self-conscious to show up in full costume. I mean, one Halloween I hid my striped pirate tights under my pants and kept my hat in my backpack until I got to class. And I was dressing up to match a friend in the same class! She did the same thing, and we rolled up our pants and put on our hats together in the hallway. We were both too shy to walk across campus alone in very minimal costumes. ON HALLOWEEN.

But I’ve been seeing a lot of Disneybound pictures lately, and I feel like I could maybe do that – I like the idea of “toning down” a costume so that it looks normal, but still evokes a certain character or interest. I kind of want to come up with some Disney outfits but nothing in my closet really works at the moment. I do have a skirt I want to accessorize into a Wonder Woman look, but I don’t have the accessories yet! However, I love the look of steampunk so when I got bored yesterday I decided to dig through my clothes and see how steampunk I could get based just on what I already had. I was… successfullish?

Wish I'd gotten one where you could see my awesome boots :(

Wish I’d gotten one where you could see my awesome boots :(

I ended up not really liking how the brown skirt sat – it should go a little lower but it’s too small! I bought it in high school and just didn’t want to part with it when I gained weight. I think it would look better if I had more like a vest or corset instead, but that’s not exactly my usual attire. Maybe I’ll figure something out by the time it’s cool enough outside to actually wear the boots (I took off the brown skirt and switched to flats when I actually left the house, which kinda took away from the look but oh well!).

Ah yes, corduroy, so steampunk. The flower necklace is the only thing I bought specifically because it looked a little "steampunkish." I'm aware the octopus is cliche.

Ah yes, corduroy, so steampunk. I’m aware the octopus is a giant cliche.

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Excision Poetry

I love excision poetry. I think it’s gorgeous and often haunting because it’s like a secret story within the page it was taken from. I wasn’t really able to incorporate it into my poetry unit this year, but when I was looking over past test results in preparation for the STAAR I realized that many of my seventh graders had scored low on the standard for graphical elements, specifically how capital letters, line length, and word position contribute to a poem’s meaning. I wanted to do a low-intensity review activity to help solidify this concept, and had a great idea using excision poems!

First, I had students choose a page from a book they’d read, randomly or one with a specific scene they liked. I didn’t want to have them all lined up by the copier forever, so I ended up capturing the pages by just freezing my doc camera and then copying the image into a word document, where I cropped/resized so the book page filled the paper. This way I was able to have a few kids choose their pages at a time while the rest of them were doing classwork.

The next day, I showed the kids a poem I’d written by excision (see below) and we made observations, then discussed how “the poet” had made certain decisions about how to arrange the words on the page. After that I showed them the book page I had used (the original example just had the words I chose underlined, but later I added the doodling), pointing out how the formatting on the page forced me to NOT have significant capitals or line length in my original draft – I changed those things later to add to the meaning of my poem.

I purposely included some significantly longer/shorter lines and unusual capitals to make sure they'd have things to comment on :)

I purposely varied my line length and used unusual capitals to make sure they’d have things to comment on :)

After that, I had students make their own poems using their pages I’d printed out before class. We also looked at some examples of artistic-looking excision poetry (thanks, Pinterest!) and decorated the pages. Some of the kids did a really incredible, creative job – one student took a love scene and managed to excise it until it sounded like it was about murder!

Left: Her page described a creature hissing and crawling. I LOVE how she made her words slither down the page like a snake! Right: Blood splatters on a zombie page. Isn't the last line chilling?

Left: The page described a creature hissing and crawling, so she made her words slither down the page like a snake!
Right: Blood splatters on a zombie page. Isn’t the last line chilling?

The one thing I would change in the future is to allow more time for the “art” portion of this lesson. For my purposes, it was just a quick review activity for state testing, but I would rather encourage students to decorate their page in a way that relates to the tone or content of their final poem and then share it with the class.

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DIY Skirts

I am painfully bad at sewing. Most of the time I get lazy and impatient, so I’m not very careful about making sure everything is cut and pinned and sewed correctly… which does not usually result in a presentable product! I also have little knowledge about various sewing accessories so I end up improvising with the basics that I happen to already own. Is it surprising that my projects don’t usually turn out?

Last summer I tried making a skirt based on one of the many, many tutorials I’ve come across on Pinterest, and the results were not pretty. Right after tearing it apart and making it again SIX TIMES, I found this post on Pinstrosity that sums up the problem quite well – the skirt ballooned out and made me look pregnant, not exactly the look I was going for. I modified it several times and ended up with a passable skirt that I only wore once because it still just didn’t fit right or look great, so I pretty much gave up on making my own skirts… until now!

A few weeks ago I wore a skirt I actually made in high school (with my grandma’s help… the zipper was too intimidating) and realized that if I’d been successful with that pattern once, I could do it again. And I did! Twice!


The first one pictured above is the original. I think the pattern I’d bought had modifications to make a shorter skirt (just the patterned part) or to add on that wide band at the bottom. I had a bunch of fabric I’d purchased for another Pinterest tutorial before I realized I’d probably just ruin it, so I decided to make a similar-length skirt minus the band – but I still wanted it to be past knee-length so I could wear it to work.

This skirt requires a little more work than the other one I posted, but hopefully I can explain it in a somewhat helpful way for anyone who wants to give it a try…

Materials: about 2 yards of fabric (depending on print – see step 2); 7″ zipper; hem tape or similar to line waistband

Quick Instructions: Make the template and cut six wedges, sew together, add a zipper and lining, finish the waistband and hem.

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“That’s Not Too Bad”

Last week I came across some information about Equal Pay Day from equalrights.org. Their goal was to raise awareness of the pay gap between men and women in various professions by commemorating the day in 2013 that women would have to work to in order to earn the same amount that men earned in 2012. I looked up the gap for my profession and found that it’s higher than the national average (77 cents per dollar).


My reaction? “Oh! That’s not too bad.”

I didn’t even realize that was a weird thing to say until hours later. Really? Not too bad?

Now, my school uses a specific payscale, so to my knowledge I’m not earning any less than equally qualified males at my school… but who knows, maybe there’s some “congrats on your penis” stipend that I don’t know about. The point is, not everyone is on my payscale. On average, I (as a female representative of my profession) am not getting my 9 cents. No, that’s not “too” bad – it could be 23 cents or 50 cents or, hell, the whole dollar – but I shouldn’t be okay with a wage gap at all! Inequality to a lesser extent is still inequality. It still exists. And it’s bad – no qualifier necessary.

I experienced a similar reaction yesterday when I first heard about the Boston Marathon bombing. I saw reports saying “2 dead, many injured” and thought the same thing. “Oh… that’s not too bad.” Of course, then I watched the video and looked at the pictures. I cried and felt sick to my stomach. I realized “injured” in this case can mean “limbs blown off.” I spent all night waking up from horrible, stressful nightmares about terrorist attacks and explosions.

That initial reaction – “that’s not too bad” – doesn’t mean I don’t care. What it does mean, I think, is that horror has become too normal, too unsurprising, too common in our everyday lives. I wait for more information before I feel an emotional reaction, because it’s just so exhausting to care about this stuff over and over. I hope that somehow it was a tragic accident so I can be just sad instead of sad and furious and hopeless. It reminds me of the type of articles The Onion published after the Sandy Hook shooting, which they are continuing in a similar vein now. Definitely a case of being funny (in a morbid, gut-wrenching, I-just-can’t-handle-feeling-like-this-again way) because it’s true. “Not too bad” is still far, far worse than it should be. 2 or 3 dead (instead of dozens or hundreds) is still 3 too many.

I recently came across this clip where Ever Mainard comments “Every woman in their entire life has that one moment where you think, oh, here’s my rape!” and again, I’m reminded that rape culture is a thing and whether it’s sexism or violence, we tolerate a lot of shit we have no business tolerating.

I don’t really have anything particularly constructive to say, I guess. Just a collection of thoughts. Sometimes it’s painful to care so much.

Updated to add: After I published this, with the wishy-washy ending, I realized that the reason I wrote it was that I wanted to call myself out. I’m glad I caught myself thinking something I know I shouldn’t, because it gave me an opportunity to think through WHY I was thinking it and why it bothered me. It’s the kind of thought process I want to encourage in my students, and anyone else I happen to encounter, so it’s important to notice it when it happens to me.